Monday, March 05, 2007

Convergent Contexts

It's not unnatural for most people, hence most businesses, to look at a new opportunity with the same lens that they have used for many years in their familiar contexts. So it is, that the content industry looks at IPTV as new channels for selling more of the same content, and the Telecom businesses see IPTV as a way of reducing churn and improving ARPU. To an extent this is also the impact of traditional valuation methodologies used by analysts to evaluate these companies, even in the face of new business models.

Recently I was at Chinwag london's event on Mobile Metamorphosis. And listening to people talk about the mobile advertising space it struck me even harder how hard it is for people to step out of their comfort zone. We all talk about being consumer centric, but truthfully, very few businesses have actually translated this into a specific proposition that is convergence-centric.

By this I mean for example, that a typical consumer probably doesn't really distinguish between IPTV and Cable or even Satellite. They may know their TV is provided by Sky or Telewest or Homechoice (now Tiscali) but thats about it. Also consumers don't analyze whether a piece of content fits the screen resolution of a mobile phone or not. Consumers react much more viscerally. They either like something or they don't.

While the industry spends time poring over what kind of content or advertising might be suited to the mobile phone screen size, resolution or battery power, consumers probably don't really care. What I do care about, as a consumer, is that when I'm out of the house, usually, my only access to information is what is on signages, or what I can access through my phone. At that time I don't really care about screen size or resolution. If I can get a map of an unknown area, a local cab company number, a score update of a match I'm missing or an ability to access my email for a phone number somebody sent me, I will really not care about how aesthetic the experience is, as long as its usable.

The same information no matter how well presented, is useless to me, at home, because I wouldn't use the phone, given the availability of my laptop or TV. I'm not yet convinced that most businesses use context well enough. They rely on what they know - which might be TV or mobile or content or access. And this is a source of value erosion as far as convergence is concerned.


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